South Asia has long remained a nuclear flash point. China, India and Pakistan, all three armed nuclear states, craft a triangular dilemma. Nevertheless, the modernization and growth of Chinese strategic and dissuasive powers is thoroughly intended to combat the predominance of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region. India’s strategic and deterrence development of its forces is focused on both China and Pakistan. Pakistan then reacts to India, accordingly. As India perceives that it is largely confronted by two rivals, China at its north and Pakistan at its west. The development of strategic and deterrent Indian forces and their deployed defenses in South Asia might create imperative strategic worries. The effectiveness of Pakistan’s second strike capability to deter India could not be entirely explained by one single factor. In pursuit of the strategic equilibrium not parity between the two adversaries, Pakistan has effectively taken counter-measures to deter its nuclear-armed rival state India in the face of full spectrum deterrence, which is part of a credible minimum deterrence in itself, that is, to bridge gaps and take necessary action where necessary. Nevertheless, such measures may not serve the purpose in the long term, as India is rapidly developing and modernizing its conventional and strategic dissuasive forces with the cooperation of global powers that provide India with a comparative advantage by acquiring cutting-edge technology. India’s commitments undermine the credibility of Pakistan’s strategic forces enormously, thus compelling Pakistan to take necessary counter-measures to prevent any erosions in the stability of deterrence.
Concept of Deterrence
Deterrence theory acquired its eminence in the Cold War period as to the use of both the Soviet Union and the United States nuclear weapons. Considering the nuclear weapons’ intense destructive force, it had a specific connotation that even an inferior nuclear power could discourage the superior one by possessing small numbers of nuclear weapons. Deterrence theory acquired its eminence in the Cold War period as to the use of both the Soviet Union and the United States nuclear weapons. Considering the nuclear weapons’ intense destructive force, it had a specific connotation that even an inferior nuclear power could discourage the superior one by possessing limited numbers of nuclear weapons. However, their credibility was also crucially important. A credible nuclear deterrent must be maintained and prepared at all times, but never used yet. Deterrence could be defined in its broader terms as a strategy intended to dissuade an adversary and rigorously prevent it from taking an inacceptable action that would have unacceptable consequences. In certain words, to intimidate an opponent by the threat of using force to deter or suppress its other actions, be they offensive or defensive, else inacceptable harm would be inflicted.
Pakistan’s Second Strike Capability: A crucial measure for strategic and Deterrence stability in South Asia
The stability of South Asia’s deterrence has always been destabilized and greatly impacted by India’s ambiguous policies and doctrines, be it a conventional doctrine of war such as the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) and/or No-First-Use (NFU) nuclear weapons policies or Massive Retaliation against any counter-force strike.India has been pursuing its active nuclear and ballistic missile programs along with its defensive measure, namely the two tiered defense shield, Prithvi Air Defense (PAD) capable of defying high-altitude threats and Advanced Air Defense (AAD) capable of refuting low-altitude threats. It is also renewing and expanding its conventional capabilities. Both of these assertive steps have in turn threatened the South Asian region’s strategic stability and balance. For the survival of a nuclear-armed state vis-à – vis a larger adversary, a responsible nuclear-weapon state like Pakistan may have no choice but to acquire a credible second strike capability to combat and effectively deter an aggressive adversary in order to maintain the stability of deterrence in the South Asian region. That being said, it would rely substantially more on its nuclear deterrence forces than on its counterpart. Keeping in mind the realistic minimum strategy of deterrence, Pakistan effectively deterred India without being economically pulled into a vicious cycle of arms race in fear of exhaustion. Deterrence by full spectrum does not necessarily apply to the greater numbers, but rather to fill the deterrence gaps created by the development of India’s conventional and nuclear powers, as Pakistan states. Deterrence by full spectrum does not necessarily apply to the greater numbers, but rather to fill the deterrence gaps created by the development of India’s conventional and nuclear powers, as Pakistan states. Pakistan’s development of marine nuclear power was inevitable, especially with regard to Indian Naval nuclear capability and BMD systems in general. Pakistan ‘s final nuclear triad leg was completed on January 9, 2017 after conducting its first ever successful test of a 450 km long Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM), named Babur-3. Babur-3 SLCM is a modified and sea-based variant of the Babur-2 Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) which was successfully tested in December 2016.Pakistan’s Babur-3 incorporates state-of-the-art technologies that provide state-of-the-art navigation and guidance features, appropriately supported by Global Navigation, Sight and Terrain Matching Systems. It is also assimilated with firm stealth, sea skimming and terrain hugging capabilities and can be loaded with different types of payloads to deliver accurately at allocated location. This particular Babur-3 test snapped a vital gap. This was a critical step to ensure a credible second strike capability and to restore the strategic balance in the region drastically disturbed by the Indian test of a nuclear capable K-4 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) ranging from 3000 to 3500 km from its nuclear powered Arihant Class I submarine in March, 2016. Despite this, India’s second strike capability had already been assured with a range of 750 km through its K-15 Sagarika SLBM.
The Indian pursuit for BMD system and its strategic implications
As a shield and a sword, the Indian BMD system has a vibrant rationale: a shield to defend against future attacks, and a sword to strike back. Considering the prestige of nuclear deterrence in South Asia, it has enormous strategic implications for regional stability, forcing Pakistan to an extreme edge to develop and establish effective countermeasures for the overall deployed defenses. The Indian BMD shield would have many strategic implications both for China and for Pakistan. In the short and long term perspectives of India’s ambitious BMD system, China may be concerned. One of India’s BMD shield’s vital objectives is generally to blunt Pakistan’s declared nuclear first-use option. This in turn would hustle up a new arms race between the region’s two rival nuclear states. India’s deployed BMD system significantly reinforces Pakistan’s credibility in terms of nuclear deterrence.
The Multiple Independently Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs) could effectively undermine the credibility of India’s deployed security shields. Indeed, the U.S. developed the MIRV technology to combat ballistic missile defense shields deployed by the Soviet Union (Russia) during the Cold War period. No matter how sophisticated the deployed defenses of the adversary are, increased warheads on a MIRV could effectively improve the missile’s credibility in defeating those deployed shields. MIRVing may be one of the powerful measures against a missile shield in South Asia, be it the high altitude or low altitude. In addition to the capability of both land-based and sea-based cruise missiles, Pakistan has also developed a ballistic missile called Ababeel with a range of 2200 km that was named MIRV to defeat the Indian BMD system. Nonetheless, Pakistan may have other choices for turning its ballistic missiles into MIRV technology, with the leading candidates Shaheen-II and Shaheen-III considering the aptitude of payloads. In addition to MIRVing, Pakistan may build a lot more sophisticated systems for defeating the opponent’s deployed defenses such as decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and warheads with very low infrared signature intensity. Such technical systems may directly or indirectly attack the sensor systems of adversary’s defenses. For example, China could interfere with U.S. radars and infrared sensors in the worst case scenario after launching an outer space nuclear weapon.
Pakistan has always exercised a proactive strategic restraint in terms of the South Asian region’s strategic stability, without compromising national security. Instead, Indian aggressive policies and actions with wider regional and global military objectives have repeatedly affected the strategic stability. Nonetheless, increasing conventional and nuclear offensives in India will have a negative impact, and will continue to threaten the region’s balance and strategic deterrence. Keeping in mind that Pakistan must also establish other means for its defense and survival to ensure that the minimum measures are effective without falling into a parity of weapons (i.e. weapon to weapon).Some Pakistani scholars and analysts believe that Pakistan is not yet fully assured of its vulnerability i.e. the acquisition of second strike capability. Pakistani submarines are powered by diesel-electric propulsion engines which make them noisy and detectable and they are also not deep shallow sea submarines with small submerging displacement (2.083 tons).While these submarines are not nuclear powered yet they could easily be found and preempted by the advanced technology of the opponent and it is still in the early stages to be fully developed and mature nevertheless. Despite the assured second strike capability, Pakistan needs to develop nuclear powered submarines with long-range SLCMs mounted on them. The SLCM’s increased ranges above from 450 km will provide an extra layer of protection, which in effect would provide an advantage to be protected from any risk to be pre-empted in enemy water. Such long-range SLCMs could be converted into MIRVs in the same way as their ground variants i.e. for the enhancement and credibility of assured second strike capability like Ababeel. Pakistan has always tried to resolve all the major embedded issues and has rationally opted for conflict avoidance because its traditional and nuclear doctrines are defensive in nature. A balanced and firm deterrence relationship between the two antagonists is completely imperative for a long lasting peace and stability of South Asia.